Skip to main content
12:00 am
tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. we mark our 10th anniversary. some terrific conversations and a colorful canvas of guests and ideas. we look at our favorite guests and moments beginning with the remarkable rise of barack obama.ssein his time as a little-known senator from illinois and his breakout at the national convention. when we from today he will be sworn in for his second term as president of these united states. we're glad you joined us on the 10th anniversary of this program, a look back at our
12:01 am
conversations with barack obama coming up right now. >> there is a saying that dr. king had that said there is right thing. i just try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. we know that we are only halfway to completely eliminate hunger, walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the u.s. stamp hunger out. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> barack obama was a little-
12:02 am
known state senator from an aillinois. the third african-american in the u.s. senate. i spoke to him after his great victory in illinois at a time when most people knew him as a skinny kid with a funny name from the south side of chicago. the phrase you have been accustomed to using, the skinny kid with a funny name from the south side of chicago. beyond that issue, how did you get beyond getting beyonpeople o vote for a guy whose name they could not renounce? >> they still screw it up sometimes. the call me alabama or yo mama. one thing that i confirmed in this race is the american people are decent people. they get confused sometimes. they're busy. there stressed. they are tired.
12:03 am
sometimes they are watching fox news, that will get them confused. tavis: yeah. >> when you talk to them about issues, the things we have in common, our belief that every child should have decent shot at life, the vulnerable around us must be cared for and the government have role in that, people respond. one of the things i started off this campaign believing was that if people knew who i was, if they knew i had helped reform the death penalty, they have provided health insurance for children who did not have it, if they had helped set up an earned income tax credit to people who really needed it, those kinds of messages are ones that would appeal across race, region, and class. >> most people with political ambitions spent years trying to gain name recognition and a seat at the table of national politics. state senator, was not just
12:04 am
another political figure. for months to the day after his first appearance with us in 2004 he had delivered what many described as one of the most electrifying keynote speeches in american history at the democratic national convention that year in boston. tavis: it is fascinating to me, coming into the national consciousness as we were talking the other day, we were talking and it was fascinating to sit here in this hall and watch you come into the process of -- consciousness of everyone across the country. >> the nice thing aside from having a wife who has a great sense of humor and does not take this stuff too seriously, to remind you of who you are, what i tried to do in that speech is give voice to what i am hearing from voters and the south side of chicago and downstate illinois. it was really their eloquence that was communicated. it is not that hard for me to
12:05 am
keep it in perspective. this is an expression of i think a lot of the hopes and dreams of people across the country who knew can do better. i hope they recognize that john kerry and john edwards will be the team that can help us do better. >> how did you decide what to put in, what to leave out of your speech? i have been in a number of conversations this week center speech. people are trying to analyze what you did and did not say. i felt for you because it is unfortunate in many respects that if you win, you'll be the only african-american in the u.s. senate, you have to be all things to all people. how do you do a speech where you have to remain authentically black for those black folks in chicago and the south side who know you and at the same time, your the face of the party? -- you are the face the pot --
12:06 am
face of the party? >> i tried to remind people i am rooted in the african-american community but not bound by it. that applies to the speech and my politics. when i tried to pass a bill that is boosting the wages of low- wage workers, that helps everybody, but disproportionately, black folks are low wage. if i am working on people who are not insured or underinsured, that helps everybody but black folks are specifically under insured. my approach is generally to say that the african-american experience is not unique to america. and we are aspiring for the same kind of dreams and hopes so if i help everybody, i can help the african-american community in particular. there are some actions -- like
12:07 am
affirmative action, those are specific to minority communities. i will stand four square behind dealing with those issues. i have optimism that white america wants to see justice done and i do not think those things are contradictory. tavis: after his historic senate victory, barack obama made a name for himself across the country. some of his friends advised him not to seek the highest office in milan. he says the time -- sensed the the time might be right for a white house run. when he joined us he was running behind a better financed and better known front runner named hillary clinton. as he joined as he displayed a quiet confidence that would carry him all the way to the white house. in the senate he sits on the powerful foreman relations -- for relations committee. his recent best seller is "the
12:08 am
audacity of hope." it is out in paperback on november 6. i was reading, you sold over 1 million copies. >> we did all right. almost as many as you sell. tavis: that is an amazing story to have your personal story sell 1 million copies. >> it is a great honor. the first book that i wrote, "dreams of my father," sold 1 million copies in paperback. that was out 10 years ago. it has been a real blessing and you're right. it gets people a chance to get to know me in a way that usually do not get to know if presidential candidate. supporters -- they have organized book clubs to read the book. the more you get to know where
12:09 am
i'm coming from the better off i will do. tavis: what is your sense of why you aren't as connected? -- are as connected? yours is just out, blowing everybody else's way. >> the first part was written before i thought about politics. it was personal and candid where people said, he was not thinking about running for office when he wrote that. and so i think there was an element of trust where people felt that hopefully i am not going to give canned responses and that carried over to the second book as well. tavis: out of those books, who knew that you and dick cheney are cousins? >> i do not think i am going to the family reunion. i do not know how i will be greeted. these folks have been doing all
12:10 am
the genealogy on me. they found all sorts of strange connections. if you go back far enough you have all kinds of crooks and thieves in the family. i am just saying, did not know who was back there. much truth is there to the stories that you are doing damage control? if the numbers do not start to move, the campaign is in trouble? >> no, campaigns always go troops and downs. what i have always said is if you're looking for the safe choice you should not be supporting a 46-year-old black guy named barack obama to be the next leader of the free world. that is not where the smart money went. people have got involved in our
12:11 am
campaign because they believed politics as usual, business as usual is not adequate. it is not that they dislike some of the other candidates. they think that -- let's take the example of health care. if we cannot break the gridlock between democrats and republicans but if we cannot overcome the insurance companies and drug company lobbyists that have a lock on washington will not get anything passed. it is not -- it does not matter if our plan is better. the second thing my supporters understand, the day i am inaugurated, this country looks at itself differently and the world books of america differently. if you believe we have to heal america and we have to prepare our standing -- repair our standing in the world, my supporters believe i am a messenger who can deliver that message around the world in and out -- a way that no other candidate can.
12:12 am
if you have a guy named obama, that isssein different from george bush. somebody who has a grandmother who lives in a village in africa without running water and heat. and without indoor plumbing. a village that has been devastated by h.i.v.-aids. when i go to africa and i am not speaking as based on what i have read or what i hear in the hearing or what i have seen visiting the ambassador 'presidents in nairobi, i am speaking from experience. when i speak about issues facing the inner-city, i am not looking at it from a distance. i am speaking from somebody who has worked in public housing projects and dealt with trying to find sex felons a better life
12:13 am
for themselves. - ex felons a better life for themselves. tavis: people do not really like hillary clinton. one could argue that dig deep in the numbers, people really do not like hillary in the numbers suggest that she is not the most electable democrat. with two or three people on the other side. what do you make of that? >> the question is can we get beyond the gridlock that we experienced during the 1990's? who was in the best position to point forward? part of the reason, when i have said, should we do this race? we had three questions. could our families survive it? since my wife is exceptional and our children is above -- are
12:14 am
above average, it would work. is there something i can do that no other candidate can do? what i believe is the country is ready to get beyond the old arguments we have been having since the 1960's about vietnam and the sexual revolution and the role of faith. all these things we have been arguing about. the american people have moved beyond that. that is what you see consistently that among independents and republicans, we do very well. when we get these big crowds i am always shaking hands afterwards and i have folks, "i am a republican but i support you." i lean over and say, "thank you, but where we whispering -- why are we whispering?" it has less about the positions that about the town i am taking.
12:15 am
i am breaking down this red state-blue state divide. that is where the convention speech went so well. not that my positions were different but the language and the town was one of let's unify the country. tavis: dr. cornell west and i were in a conversation. the point was made that if you have the support that jesse jackson had in black america, in what do'91988, you make of the point that if support thise's would be over? >> black folks have fun this for the clintons. black women in particular. if right now nationally the numbers showed as getting that
12:16 am
kind of 80-90% of african- american support, it would be over with. that gap between me and hillary would be closed. what is going on in the african- american community is the same thing i saw in the u.s. senate race. i was getting 25% of the black vote. black folks did not know me. they're looking at barack obama, we do not know -- where is he from and what is he about? we went javon tv and by the end we had 85%. my support in illinois is 90% among african-americans. the same thing you are seeing in the states where i am active. in south carolina i started out at 10%. now we lead among african- americans and that is before we have run any television. the interesting thing among black voters is what we hear again and again, folks are somewhat concerned about my safety and i have to remind them that i have the best protection
12:17 am
on earth. we're going to be all right. do not fear on that. they're not sure that white folks will vote for me. do not sell ourselves short. do not anticipate that this cannot be done. we made a decision we're trying to break through those barriers. you can tell me i cannot do something. if people said i could not win voted ine ratrace, i got by the most votes. we had the black and white and hispanic and asian boat. i do not want to focus on the fact this cannot be done. once people break through the threshold, people can ask is he a guy who's going to care about me and work on behalf of my issues and i can say, look at my track record. i did not go to the fancy firm,
12:18 am
i worked as a civil rights lawyer. i worked in public housing. i have fought on issues that are hard like criminal-justice issues where there is a political cost to pay. i will put my record against any of this candidate and once they realized we will be in a strong position to win. >> you mentioned your personal safety in addition to being a fine candidate, you or profit as well -- are a prophet as well. we are admirers, we see ourselves as part of a tradition. we were listening to some king stuff. i brought the cd in , this is king speaking in your home town in 1966, talking about his fear for his own life.
12:19 am
he is in a church in chicago in 1966, barack obama's home town. take a listen. i want to ask you something about this. >> they started making nasty telephone calls and came to the point that some day, more than 40 telephone calls would come in threatening my life, the life of my family, the life of my children. i took it for a while in a strong manner. but i never will forget one night very late. it was around midnight, and you can have some strange experiences at midnight. tavis: he goes on to talk about the fear for his own life. this is king speaking about montgomery, alabama, where he was leading the movement. i thought about that and wondered how it is that you
12:20 am
processed that. he suggested that yueh suggested black folks should not be afraid to vote for you because something might happen to you. there is secret service all around the studio. other candidates do not have that because of threats against her life. >> it is not something i think about. when i listen to that tape is i think about the kurds that man went through. he did not have secret service protection. and law enforcement in the towns where he was working were against him. some of them were members -- klan members. i cannot comprehend the degree of courage that was required and yet look at what he did each and every day. getting up, speaking out, marching, leading. it reminds me of that tradition where the stuff we go through now, i get called names. people call me up, i am sorry about that bad newspaper article about you. that review on the debate, that
12:21 am
was rough, i thought that was unfair. i am thinking, no one is during a brick through my window. -- throwing a brick through my window. the country has changed in a profound way. when i am travelling through iowa which does not have a large african-american population and you see their response of the people and the croats, you get a sense that folks are ready to transcend some of these issues. that is not to say that the country is going to be color blind in this race. that will be an issue for blacks and whites. one of the things that surface is people have some confused views about this. what it does say is the vast majority of americans right now, what they want to know is, how are you going to help me hang on to my house now that the subprime lending crisis is in full force? what are you going to do tell me build my job now that the plant
12:22 am
move to china? how can i say for my child's college tuition and my own retirement at the same time? if i can answer those questions effectively in the last few months of this campaign, we have an excellent chance of getting this nomination. tavis: speaking of the issues, one of the strategies you are implying is to remind people of your opposition to the iraq war before the vote went down. contrast with what hillary clinton and others who voted to support the war. the question is whether or not you think that strategy works. i asked against the backdrop of looking back and reminding them of what was a good strategy verses with the american -- where the american people are now, regarding our way forward. >> two points i would make on that. you'd be surprised a number of people and this goes back to knowingly do not realize i am -- was against the war.
12:23 am
politics is redundancy sometimes. you keep repeating because you assume everyone knows and they do not. i do not talk about my opposition to the war which has been consistent since 2002. justice a told you so. it points to how i exercise judgment around for a policy. that is relevant to looking forward because part of what got us into iraq was a conventional brand of thinking about our foreign policy, not just republicans -- that not just republicans bought into. hillary still buys into it to some degree. we need to me with all leaders. i am not afraid of losing a propaganda battle because i am meeting with hugo chavez. former cannot to me with these leaders sends a signal that
12:24 am
we're arrogant and we're doing things on our own and that will not repair the damage that has been done to our foreign policy as a consequence of george bush and that will make it difficult to mobilize the international support, whether to get iran to stand down on a clear weapons or deal with the situation in darfur. if you look at the opposition to the war, i did not just stumble into it. i laid out what i thought would happen and i want voters to understand we will have another set of difficult decisions on iraq or north korea or anything out there we do not know yet. they need to ask themselves, shouldn't it be relevant who got the most important foreign- policy issue right and who got a wrong and how that will bear out their decision to vote. tavis: barack obama will be sworn in. the next four years will
12:25 am
determine the legacy that president obama will leave behind. regardless of how he is judged in office, his meteoric rise in american politics has been one of the most unlikely and transformative journeys in american history. that is our show for tonight. we'll speak to prince. a few memorable nights with the musical icon. good night from los angeles. as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with prince, some memorable appearances over the years. that is next time. we will see you then. >> there is a saying that dr. king had that said there is always the right time to do the right thing. i just try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. we know that we are only
12:26 am
halfway to completely eliminate hunger, and we have a lot of work to do. walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the u.s. as we work together, we can stamp hunger out. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> be more. pbs. >> be more. pbs.
12:27 am
12:28 am
12:29 am

Tavis Smiley
PBS January 15, 2013 12:00am-12:30am PST

News/Business. Barack Obama. (2013) President Barack Obama. New. (CC) (Stereo)

TOPIC FREQUENCY U.s. 5, Chicago 5, Us 4, America 4, Clinton 3, Illinois 3, Los Angeles 2, George Bush 2, Africa 2, Pbs 2, Tavis Smiley 2, Washington 1, Boston 1, Milan 1, Downstate Illinois 1, Jesse Jackson 1, Hugo Chavez 1, Foreman 1, Javon 1, Black America 1
Network PBS
Duration 00:30:00
Scanned in San Francisco, CA, USA
Source Comcast Cable
Tuner Channel 80 (561 MHz)
Video Codec mpeg2video
Audio Cocec ac3
Pixel width 720
Pixel height 480
Sponsor Internet Archive
Audio/Visual sound, color

disc Borrow a DVD of this show
info Stream Only
Uploaded by
TV Archive
on 1/15/2013